Conflict experts are warning that Kenya’s failure to restore education in its troubled northeastern regions will help terrorist group al-Shabab recruit local youth. A report from the International Crisis Group calls on Kenyan authorities to cooperate with the locals to improve security and train teachers for the schools.
Kenya’s northeastern region has begun the process of finding more teachers to lead classes when schools re-open next January.
The closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic gives the region time to hire teachers from the region after the non-local teachers fled the area due to insecurity.
Khalif Sheikh Issack is the Garissa County education chief. He says the region is looking for at least 1,500 teachers to fill the gap left by others who left the region due to al-Shabab attacks.
“The target is to recruit only local teachers from Garissa, Wajir, and Mandera so that the issue of insecurity and teachers who come from outside these counties who were facing imminent danger is removed,” Issack said. "The recruitment is ongoing, and we pray maybe we would raise enough local teachers. One aspect that is being addressed is direct recruitment of teachers, fresh teachers, they are also calling back those from this region who retired. They are being put back on contract, and any other teacher who deserted the service either for greener pastures or discipline cases were called back.”
The Teachers Service Commission, which is tasked with hiring and deployment of teachers, pulled the educators from the region after four teachers were killed in January and February by al-Shabab.
The TSC said they did not want to lose more teachers to the Islamist militant group.
Ahmed Ismail Dugow, an elected member of Wajir County Assembly, whose area borders Somalia, says there has been no schooling in the area for some time.
“Education in my area has been affected, the learning institution has been completely shut down,” Dugow said. "Over 15 primary and eight secondary schools have been closed since the teachers left because of insecurity in my area, specifically villages and towns bordering with Somalia.”
Murithi Mutiga is the Horn of Africa project director at the International Crisis Group. He says the teachers’ absence gives the terror group a good opening to recruit youth who can join them in their fight against the Kenyan and Somali governments.
“Al-Shabab have found that targeting teachers, it can empty the schools of those tutors, leave a lot of young people without education and make them more vulnerable to radicalization and possible recruitment,” Mutiga said.
The wave of attacks has led to more security operations in Kenya’s northeast, which has also created a climate of mistrust between the local population and security forces.
Mutiga says the authorities need to work closely with the community to defeat al-Shabab.
“We are just urging them to reprise that approach to ensure communities have confidence in authorities, focus on gathering intelligence, and then that may give them a better chance of rowing back al-Shabab’s campaign,” Mutiga said.
The militant group has carried out attacks against Kenyan targets since the government sent troops to Somalia in 2011. Kenya has vowed to remain in Somalia until the country restores normalcy and stability.